We're trying a new plan for lunch at school this year. So far it's been great, so I better go ahead and write about it while it's still working.
The old plan:
47 ziplock baggies
loose in the backpack
at room temperature
When we had shopped for a Zack lunchbox last year, everything was huge and covered with some commercial character. I know it's strange, but I don't like commercial characters for my kids clothing, gear and toys. I don't want my (at the beginning of last school year) still two year old sporting an Incredible Hulk lunchbox. And every lunchbox was so big it wouldn't fit in his backpack. Since we are already hauling a napmat (WHY did I have to get the extra thick one?), sippy cup and backpack, we were dangerously close to bringing a pile of gear larger than the gear's owner.
Thus, the lunch ended up being all items I didn't mind keeping at room temperature and all in ziplock bags. The constant stream of ziplock bags was making me feel guilty and the contents of the ziplock bags were making me feel hypocritical, since I have an ongoing rant about the foods considered "kids' food".
The new plan:
insulated lunchbox with ice pack
This year I found a small lunchbox that fits in Zack's backpack. I even got a matching ice pack! Thanks to the Container Store, we found a variety of containers tiny enough to pack small amounts of multiple items for lunch.
Here's the great part - Zack and I sat down with a piece of scrap paper and his crayons and drew out what a variety of foods means. Not exactly a food pyramid, more like a mixed plate. And we decided that if he was going to choose a variety of items for his lunch, then he could choose a sweet item to finish the meal. We had to limit the sweet items, since the school asks that we not send candy, etc., to items like a piece of granola bar, "apple treats" (little does he know apple treats are just dried apples), caramel dip for his fruit or kettle corn. I give him choices from each category, with dips or sauces in the tiny containers, and he has some ownership in what the foods are.
The first day of the mixed plate, he ate his sweet finish with out actually finishing anything else.
"But I asked my teacher if I could eat it. I told her I hadn't eaten my lunch and she still said I could eat it."
So, it became an additional lesson on using integrity and judgment. Now, he's been eating the lunch - including the vegetables - or bringing home some items including his sweet and eating them for a snack. I'm thrilled, at least for now. We'll see how it goes the rest of the year.